Along the Old Wagon Road at Historic Banning Mills, I peered up at the tower's platform. My eyes squinted against the sun and my right hand cast shade with a salute. To my husband, I said, "That doesn't look so high." At the end of the statement, my voice rose, which gave the impression that I was posing a question as opposed to seeking affirmation.
“It doesn’t?” he asked back.
Banning Mills holds the Guinness Book record for the longest and largest zip line canopy tour in the world. That didn’t ease anxiety when I initialed all the blanks and signed my name to the disclaimer form. It didn’t bring comfort when I stepped into a harness and tightened the straps. It didn’t inspire motivation as I climbed the 144 steps to the tower platform the next day.
When I stood on the planks 100 feet above the gravel road, the opening scene from Cliffhanger looped through my head. You know the part. Sylvester Stallone’s girlfriend’s harness slowly rips as he struggles to save her. After several excruciating minutes he gets to her and grabs her and tells her to hold on, that he’s got her. She screams, “I don’t want to die!” Stallone’s muscles ripple and flex. His grip is the only security she has between life and plummeting to the deep bottom of the rocky cavern. Her arm slides until only their hands are clasped. Their eyes lock as her fingers slip out of her glove, and she falls away to her death.
I hope the goodlooking guide is the one left holding my glove, I think. I’d like to stare into his face as I fall.
I meant that as no slight to my husband. I just assume that guides are used to that sort of thing. My husband would have to live the rest of his life immersed in guilt. Then there’s all that baggage we’ve got between us after 21 years of marriage. He might let go before all hope is lost, which would be premature, maybe even premeditated.
The lip of the platform cozied up to the toes of my Nikes and I dared a peek over the side. The lay of the land appeared to fall away at a drastic angle. When I pricked my finger and initialed and signed the disclaimer, I didn’t think I had a heart problem. Now, feeling it flip in my chest and retreat into my stomach, I thought maybe I did.
Too late. The guide clamped my harness to a wire. I was hooked. From my pocket, I pulled my iPhone encased in an Otter Box and took a last picture of my beloved and me. His helmet perched on his head like a yarmulke. Mine hung slack over my right ear. I gave the odds to my iPhone and left a message on it for our children about where we buried the money. What a good laugh when I got to heaven and looked down on them digging up the front yard and the neighbors having a fit about the holes.
“Time to go,” said the guide. “You can either step off the edge or take a running leap.” He added, “Second choice is best. You never know if this might be your only chance.”
This is the essence of faith, I thought. God either wants me to have one last melodramatic gaze into the eyes of the handsome guide, or he wants to give me an exhilarating, 80-mph, half-mile flight on a narrow cable over Snake Creek Gorge. God flipped a coin and I took a running leap.